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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Vinge

18 February 2016

The Swedish firm focuses on high-value energy disputes

People in Who’s Who Legal: 21
Value of pending counsel work: US$50 billion
Treaty cases: 1
Current arbitrator appointments: 10 (of which 6 are as sole or chair)
Lawyers sitting as arbitrator: 5

Since its inception over 30 years ago, Vinge has maintained a dispute resolution practice, even though the firm was at that time focused mainly on M&A. A decade ago it transformed into a full-service law firm with its own international arbitration team. Late partner Robert Romlöv in Gothenburg helped build up the group and was an early adviser on ICSID arbitration and counsel to Dutch investor CME in a precedent-setting treaty case against the Czech Republic.

The practice was further shaped by Hans Bagner, one of Sweden’s better known names in the field (he’s since moved to a smaller practice). The arbitration group poached a rival’s core practice in 2009, adding a number of new faces to the group, including the then chair of the board of the SCC Arbitration Institute, Johan Gernandt.

Today, Gernandt and James Hope, continue to anchor the work with Hope serving as head of the team in Stockholm. Hope became a member of the board of SCC Arbitration Institute in 2013. In late 2015, the firm said goodbye to Christer Söderlund who had practised at the firm and its predecessor for 40 years. Söderlund, one of Sweden’s most in-demand arbitrators, now practises at Magnusson.

Often acting as lead counsel in international cases, the team regularly finds itself arguing against major foreign practitioners, including QCs, in foreign seats. While home to established names in the arbitration world, it is keen to note that in the Swedish market, the “old guard” is beginning to step down and a new generation of young and savvy lawyers are coming to the fore.

Network

The arbitration group works from Stockholm, Gothenburg, Helsingborg, Malmö. Since the last GAR 100, the firm has decided to scale down its non-Swedish offices, closing its offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, though it continues to maintain a presence in Brussels.

Who uses it?

The firm is popular with Russian clients: energy group Rosneft,joint-stock company Acron, shipyard Baltiysky Zavod, Russian shareholders on one side of the TNK-BP joint venture and gas company Rosgazifikatsiya have all called on Vinge for arbitration advice.

Russia's Gazprom, Norwegian conglomerate Orkla and satellite and rocket maker Yuzhnoye are also clients. More locally, Sweden’s Tele2 is an important client, as is Swedish–Finnish energy company Ellevio (previously Fortum).

Track record

One of the firm’s most illustrious moments was the CME v Czech Republic case from 2003. Vinge was part of the legal team acting for the Dutch investor in local court proceedings to defend a major award under the Netherlands-Czechoslovakia BIT. The investor won one of the largest sums seen at ICSID.

More recently, the firm successfully defended Swedish Export Credit Corporation against claims of more than US$400 million brought by a large Swedish bank.

It also clinched two favourable settlements for a Swedish energy company in an SCC arbitration against an English industrial company concerning claims of more than US$250 million, and for another Swedish company in an LCIA arbitration concerning claims of up to US$14 million.

In 2014, the firm defended several Swedish investors in SCC proceedings worth US$43 million brought by an Indian conglomerate. In July, they won a favourable partial award for the client. In court proceedings, Vinge helped Spanish minority investors in Yukos preserve a jurisdictional award from in 2009 against a declaratory action by Russia in the Swedish courts. A challenge against the final award is pending. (Different counsel advised in the arbitration.)

Vinge also acted for six international marine insurers in a multiparty dispute in Gothenburg worth US$105 million that concluded favourably for the firm’s clients in April 2014. Another US$80 million case between Vinge client AB Svensk Exportkredit and Swiss liquidated entity Lehman Brothers Finance was successfully settled a few weeks before merits hearings in March 2014.

In addition, Vinge settled a US$100 million ICC case seated in Rio de Janiero concerning a power plant contract.

Recent events

In 2015, the firm promoted several of its lawyers: Fredrik Lundblom became a partner in Stockholm, while Cecilia Möller Norsted, Silvia Dahlberg, Yohanna Öhrnegård and Michele Fara became counsel in the Gothenburg office.

The firm scored a high-profile win for Russian energy company Tyumenneftegaz in July when Sweden’s appeal court set aside a US$173 million award against it. The award, which had been issued in favour of US’s First National Petroleum Corporation, was set aside on the grounds that the tribunal had exceeded its mandate.

The firm says that it scored a win for Orkla against Nestlé in a trademark dispute in April when the tribunal issued an injunction in favour of the Norwegian conglomerate.

The firm also received high-profile instructions in 2015: partner James Hope is representing UK-based JKX Oil & Gas in consolidated UNCITRAL, ICSID, and SCC claims against Ukraine. In July, a Kiev court upheld an application by JKX to enforce an award rendered in January by an SCC emergency arbitrator that prohibited the state from increasing royalty fees on JKX’s gas production. The decision is reportedly the first time that an emergency arbitration award has been enforced against a state.

Hope also continues to act co-counsel with DLA Piper in its defence of Gazprom in a US$16 billion dispute with Ukrainian state utility Naftogaz.

The firm is representing a Swedish company in a complex SCC case against a Swiss company worth more than US$260 million relating to a purchase of technical products.

The firm is also understood to be part of a co-counsel team representing Total subsidiary Elf Neftegaz in a US$22 billion arbitration dispute with two Russian regional governments and a Russian company. Linklaters and Mannheimer Swartling are also on the team.

Client comment

One client tells GAR, “Vinge prepared written submissions which have been of the absolute highest standard and quality,” and praises the team of Jonas Eklund and Fredrik Lundblom for their “very efficient direct examinations and cross-examinations.” The client also notes that Vinge’s fees were significantly lower than counsel’s fees for the opponent.

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